astra_nomer: (Default)
2017-08-29 02:43 pm

Total Solar Eclipse

(Finally getting around to writing about my experience seeing the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017)

I had volunteered to represent Wild West University's Physics & Astronomy Department at Guernsey State Park for the eclipse, in exchange for a reserved camping space for the weekend before the eclipse. Originally, we were supposed to go along with the families of DS2's friends A and J, but one parent had to work and another parent had medical issues, so we ended up just bringing A and J with us. We were joined by 3 students plus one friend and two dogs.

The morning of the eclipse, we headed over to the official viewing area, near the Castle, at around 7:30am. People were already filling up the parking lots. We set up a booth with a tent (complete with University logo!) and some tables to hand out eclipse glasses and info on the University. We ended up with lots of extra glasses and hardly anyone took any handouts. As totality approached, we started trying to give away glasses by the handful. Eventually, we had to take down the tent because of the wind.

We had set up an 8" telescope with solar filter to allow people to view the Sun. Initially we struggled with the focus, but then it magically fixed itself and we could clearly see sunspots. J turned out to be particularly good at taking photos with his phone through the eyepiece. We didn't get as many visitors as I had hoped, because people had mostly stayed by their cars instead of trekking out the the Castle at the edge of the canyon.

As the partial eclipse began, we were able to clearly see the moon crossing the face of the sun through the telescope, and it wasn't long before you could see it through the eclipse glasses. People had lots of fun projecting crescent moons with makeshift pinhole cameras. The colander was particularly good for this.

About halfway to totality, the drop in temperature became noticeable. It had been a hot morning, but it began cooling off. The temperature kept dropping as totality approached. Interestingly, the drop in brightness wasn't really noticeable until the final minutes before totality. I chose to watch the sun (through the glasses) as totality approached, rather than the approaching shadow. I did hear the people around me saying "look at the shadow!" as the Sun disappeared.

No pictures of total eclipses could possibly do justice to the experience of actually seeing the completely eclipsed Sun with my own eyes. It was like a big black hole in the sky had appeared where the Sun should be, surrounded by the eerie halo of the corona. It just goes to show that the human eye has fantastic dynamic range. I could totally understand why people of ages past might have believed that the world was ending and felt the need to make blood sacrifices. I looked around, and I could see planets and a few stars. The horizon in all directions was red like sunset. It never got quite as dark as full night.

As we were watching, a jet plane crossed right over the face of the eclipsed sun. Probably chasing the eclipse themselves!

The 2 minutes and 19 seconds of totality was over too quickly. I saw the diamond ring effect as totality ended and quickly shooed M away from the telescope, from which we had removed the solar filter. She had been trying to take a photo through the telescope as opposed to looking through it, fortunately. As the sun came back, so did the light, which looked pretty weird at first. A flock of birds, probably ravens, suddenly
took off from the canyon toward the sky.

As the sun came back, so did the heat. We actually left before the end of the partial eclipse, because two of the students and I were headed to a conference in Boise the next day. It took us a good four hours just to get to Laramie. We mostly took back roads until we got to 287. The cars along the highway stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, all heading south. Fortunately there was a police officer letting traffic in, or we would have been sitting there another hour waiting for a break in traffic! It took us an hour to move that last 18 miles.

[Note: the profile pic shown here is NOT the eclipsed sun, it is a coronagraphically imaged disk around a young star.]
astra_nomer: (Default)
2017-04-09 07:42 pm

Hello word

n/t

ETA: that's right, I failed my "Hello World" test on Dreamwidth. This doesn't bode well.
astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2017-04-09 07:30 pm

Jumping ship

Wow, I don't use this account much anymore at all, do I.

I'm moving over to dreamwidth, same username and all. This account may vanish some day, but for now I would rather not lose all the entries in it.
astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2015-06-29 07:11 pm

Visiting Boston

I will be holding office hours this Wednesday, July 1, 2:30-5pm Thursday, July 2, 3-5pm at Zaftigs Deli in Natick, MA. I will be answering (and asking) questions about Life, the Universe and Everything. RSVPs are not required, but would be helpful.
http://www.zaftigs.com/index.php/natick
astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2015-04-19 11:00 pm

Race report

Ran my second half-marathon this morning! The same race I did last year, actually.

Last year's time was about 2:34, so my goal was to run it in 2:30 or less. (Spoiler: I succeeded.)

Cut for those of you who might actually read such things )
astra_nomer: (Default)
2013-06-29 12:46 pm
Entry tags:

Dinner trip

Tonight (6/29) 6pm at Redbones. Let me know if you want to come so I can reserve us a able!

astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2013-06-24 11:59 pm

See all the people!

So, I'm going to be in Boston this coming weekend, arriving sometime before noon on Friday, and leaving early Sunday.

Therefore, I propose a dinner mob!
Let's say, Friday 6pm, the Bertucci's at Alewife. Unless someone has a better suggestion.

Also, I propose a dim sum mob!
Let's say, Saturday morning at 10am, New China Pearl in Woburn.

Please comment below if you'd like to come.

Also if you can't come to either of these, let me know, since my schedule is pretty flexible right now. I might also propose a Saturday night dinner mob, if I can think of a good place to go to. Maybe Redbones?

And if you're in Italy, phooey on you! I mean, maybe I'll catch you next time I'm in town.
astra_nomer: (Default)
2013-06-05 09:27 pm

Octopodes

So, I volunteered to make an octopode to send to Italy. (The Italy octopodes story is someone else's, so I won't go into it here.) I made this smirking troublemaker out of some yarn I had lying around. She insists that she's silver, not gray, thankyouverymuch.

When my kids saw her and I told them that she was going to Italy, they told me I had made her all wrong. And since my kids are brilliant, I made her a friend...

Read more... )

Now, to send them off...

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2013-04-19 09:41 am

This week is fired.

I'm freaking out a bit here.

Despite living over a thousand miles away, despite having been born in raised in Chicago, despite the amount of time that has past since I lived in Massachusetts, in many ways I still consider Boston to be my home. So, although I live and work in areas that are highly unlikely to be the subject of a terrorist attack (there's gotta be some silver lining to living in a fly-over state), all I really want to do is curl up under the bedcovers and cry.

I don't even need a map to know the locations that I'm hearing about in the news. I can see the towns, the neighborhoods, the streets that they are talking about. It's invaded my freaking college campus!

I am thinking of every single one of my friends who live in the Boston area, and there are an awful lot of you. I'm sure that what I'm going through here is much milder than what you are actually living through right now, and yet my minor personal struggles, like driving through work through blowing snow and icy roads, seem tiny and petty in comparison.

I'm experiencing a similar gut-wrenching feeling and disconnect from reality, like I'm living in a really bad action flick, that I experienced on September 11, 2001, when I was still living in Arlington, MA.

Anyway, I really needed to get that out of my system, and hopefully I can move on with my day now. Thank goodness for icanhazcheezburger.com.
astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2013-01-29 02:50 pm

I study things and make other people study, too

(Couldn't resist this meme)

I work at a school for people who have finished high school and want to learn more. People take classes from me to learn how and why things in space and on the ground move the way they do. Last fall, my students learned how balls move when you throw them, using numbers. Now my students (different students from last fall) are learning about worlds around other stars. Outside classes, I study how worlds form around other stars. I use great big computers to study this. Worlds form out of stuff left behind from when the star formed. You can see this stuff around young stars when you look at them with things that can see far. Sometimes you can see a world hiding in the stuff, too.

(http://splasho.com/upgoer5/)
astra_nomer: (Default)
2012-05-25 07:38 am
Entry tags:

The Proposaling Carol

Here we come proposaling in order to get green!
Here we come proposaling so faaair to be seen,
Love and Joy come to you!
and to you an Excellent Review!
NASA bless you and grant you some funding next year,
NASA grant you some funding next year.
astra_nomer: (Default)
2012-05-24 10:01 am
Entry tags:

Proposaling

I've decided that "proposal" can be a verb. As in, "Sorry I can't make the meeting, I'm busy proposaling this week." Or, "I was up until 4am proposaling last night, er, this morning."

Since the deadline is tomorrow, at least I'll have the long weekend to recover from proposaling all week.
astra_nomer: (Default)
2012-04-02 10:24 am

Weather woes

We had a lovely weekend in $HOME_TOWN. It got to over 80 degrees, and we ate dinner out on our deck twice.

This morning, it's f**king snowing in $UNIVERSITY_TOWN.
astra_nomer: (AB Aurigae)
2012-03-01 11:27 am

Plain language abstract

Today, I submitted an abstract for the upcoming AAS Meeting in June. At the end, there was a field I'd never seen before, for a "plain language" abstract of 10-50 words. Apparently meant for journalists and laypeople (and nosy politicians, I bet).

Part of me was tempted to enter, "This science is totally cool and awesome!" or "this is teh best science EVAR" but I was good and entered in something serious but comprehensible.

It brings to mind a conversation I had with a colleague recently - writing rejection letters in txt msg format. "No job 4 U. kthxbai."
astra_nomer: (SCIENCE)
2012-02-23 01:57 pm

yak shaving training

In teaching this graduate class, I'm beginning to become aware of all the skills I picked up in graduate school that weren't just material taught in class. For instance, I've been assigning one computationally oriented problem per problem set. But then I realized that they couldn't figure out how to interpolate between two points, something I see as being so basic and second nature I don't even think about it any more. This has caused some grumbling among students, particularly the ones who don't understand why I'd be trying to get them to learn computational skills and not just focusing on the subject material.

So I've come to the conclusion that I'm training them to shave yaks.

If you don't know the yak-shaving analogy, it goes something like this for astronomer.
You've taken some photometric data at a telescope on some object (star, galaxy, planet, quasar, etc.). You look in the literature, and you see that similar observations have been made on that same object over time, and you get the idea that maybe the source has been varying over time. But the observations have been done at different telescopes, and not all of them have used the same photometric filters you have. But if you know the passbands, you can calibrate the photometry to a standard set of filters. Except for this one set of observations, so you look up their reference for their filters and the transmission functions are indeed published -- tattooed on the side of yak. So there you are shaving a yak so that somewhere down the line you can do real science.

These first year students? They wouldn't be able to get to the first step in this process. It's a matter both of unfamiliarity with the subject matter, but also being unfamiliar with the whole problem-solving process that will get them to an answer. So while I might complain about spending my time yak-shaving, that's only because I already know how to find, herd, and wrangle the yaks already.
astra_nomer: (geekchic)
2012-01-01 10:28 am
Entry tags:

Happy New Year

Spent New Year's Eve fighting winds all day, then went to a few First Night activities in town. We came home in time to watch the ball drop in Times Square, and DH and I would have gone right to bed except the kids insisted on staying up. The fireworks had been cancelled due to the winds, even though it had pretty much all died down by the evening. But our across-the-street neighbors (the ones with the dirt bikes) helpfully provided fireworks of their own at midnight. Good thing the kids forced us to stay up, otherwise it would have would have woken me up.

I haven't made any formal resolutions, though there are the usual things like publish more papers, lose more weight, and be a better person kind of things. 2011 was and eventful but overall positive year, and here's hoping that 2012 will be a bit less eventful but just as positive.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

astra_nomer: (Default)
2011-12-30 04:16 pm

Get off my lawn

Our office is in the front of the house. With a lovely big picture window. Which is currently framing a couple of kids on REALLY NOISY dirt bikes riding up and over a mound in the empty lot across the street.

Unfortunately I'm not the kind of person to run out and yell at random kids on the street, so I guess I'll just have to put up with it until they get bored of it.
astra_nomer: (Default)
2011-07-11 01:39 pm
Entry tags:

Rattled

We recently assigned the chores of taking out garbage and recycling to the kids, since they wanted a raise in their allowances. Last week, Son the Younger came back in claiming that there was a rattlesnake outside. Given the cacophony of sounds of Washington area summer nights, hot and heavy with insects and amphibians desperately seeking mates, we assured him that he must have heard some kind of cicada or some such, not a rattlesnake.

That's not a cicada! )
astra_nomer: (house)
2011-06-27 02:23 pm

House!

We just signed a contract on a new house!

Our old house sold within a week of putting it on the market, and we're currently renting back from the buyer.

Now just need to worry about little details like finalizing the mortgage, registering the kids for school, buying a new car, packing and moving, fending off offers of "help" from my parents, planning our trip out...

ETA: also need a new "house" icon.
astra_nomer: (Default)
2011-06-20 02:41 pm

I love being a geek

I just moved offices (a scant six weeks before I leave, but whatever) and they have a little coffee area up here. There's a sign posted on how to make coffee, not too unusual. One of the lines there is says something about "the red LED," which has sparked a whole pencilled-in discussion, in a various handwritings:

-Is it actually an LED or a just a red light?
-take a spectrum
-write a proposal to build a spectrograph
-need coffee to write the proposal!

all of which I just find hilarious.